The U.S. market for pet reptile products is seeing growth slow but steady growth, according to a new report from market research firm Packaged Facts.
It's increasing at a pace equal to or greater than the markets for other small pets, such as fish, rabbits, hamsters and birds. It had sales of $383 million in 2016, up 2 percent from the previous year, according to the report, called "Reptile Products: U.S. Pet Market Trends and Opportunities."
"Growth in the mass merchandiser and internet channels has helped improve overall sales, as have stronger sales in the food segment," said David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts. "Interestingly, we also see the pet parenting trend extending beyond furry companions to include reptiles. Reptile owners give their pets just as much love as dog and cat owners give theirs. What do these reptile owners want? The same things other pet owners want, namely safe and convenient items that make their pets easier to feed and care for."
With online sales markedly improving and pet specialty sales remaining stable, Packaged Facts forecasts the reptile products market will continue to grow at a steady rate looking ahead to 2021. Likewise, the strength of the market's top two segments — food and treats, and enclosure heating and lighting — are expected to sustain sales growth for reptile products.
Packaged Facts found marketer activity involving food and treats to be particularly intriguing due to the rising trend of specialized diets catering to specific species and specific lifestyle stages. While species-specific food has always been more common for reptile pets, more marketers are specifically calling out species in packaging to underscore this fact. And marketers are using packaging to differentiate which food products are appropriate for the specific lifestyle stages of different reptiles and amphibians.
Wild-derived house mice call at higher rates and frequencies during interactions with the opposite sex than with the same sex, according to a study published December 13, 2017 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Sarah Zala from Konrad Lorenz Institute of Ethology, Austria, and colleagues.
During social and sexual interactions, house mice make surprisingly complex ultrasonic vocalizations with features similar to bird song. These ultrasonic vocalizations have been classified into more than 10 distinctive elements, and these "syllables" are often emitted in "phrases" of repeated sequences. Moreover, these calls appear to serve functions including social recognition, intimidating rivals, and attracting mates.
However, the role of these vocalizations has been studied primarily in laboratory mice. Zala and colleagues studied vocalizations in the first generation of house mice born to wild-caught parents. The researchers compared vocalizations of mice when they were paired with the same sex to those when they were paired with the opposite sex. Vocalizations were recorded for 20 males and 20 females, and each trial lasted 10 minutes. Spectrographic analysis of each element -- or candidate syllable -- in the vocalizations included frequency, amplitude and time.
The researchers found that in wild-derived house mice, rates and frequencies of calling were higher among both males and females when paired with the opposite sex than with the same sex. In addition, call amplitudes tended to be higher when a male was paired with another male rather than with a female. These findings suggest that house mice modulate their vocalizations depending on the sex of receivers.
In addition, study mice emitted up to 2,083 ultrasonic vocalization elements per trial, with most mice (60%) emitting 50 or fewer elements. As a species that is studied intensively, the house mouse has great potential as a model system for investigating animal communication and behavioral biology.
"Interestingly, mice vocalized at higher rates during opposite- compared to same sex interactions," says Zala. "Females called at higher frequencies when presented with a male than a female mouse and males called at higher frequencies when presented with a female than a male mouse."
Using the example of cockroaches, the Cologne-based zoologist Dr Tom Weihmann and his team were able to show that quickly running insects change their gait at mid-speed. This behaviour has previously only been observed in fast mammals. This change in gait is similar to the way horses change from trop to gallop. The results of the study have now been published in the journal Frontiers in Zoology.
'I was particularly surprised that a change in mechanisms stabilizing the animal's movement goes hand in hand with a change in leg coordination', Weihmann notes. An insect's slow run is very stable because its centre of gravity is low and three legs are always moving in a coordinated manner. The research showed that the change in gait at high speed and on a slippery surface was accompanied by a change from static to dynamic stabilization. This minimizes the need of the central nervous system to control the motion while attaining high energy efficiency.
'This discovery not only has far-reaching implications regarding the behaviour and ecology of insects and other arthropodes', says Weihmann. 'Our results can also contribute to solving some problems we still have with the movement of robots.'
Robots with legs generally have better cross-country mobility than robots with wheels. Particularly at high running speeds, however, robots use up a lot of energy -- in contrast to many animals. Thus, the cockroaches' locomotion pattern could contribute to finding a solution that would let robots run at a high speed with an acceptable expenditure of energy. 'Robots with legs that can be used here on Earth after disasters, or on Mars or other planets, are often modelled on insects', Weihmann explains. 'Adapting the coordination patterns of robot legs to those of fast-running cockroaches can help the robot use energy more efficiently and hence increase its endurance in an inhospitable environment.'
Scientists have previously shown that a parasite from cats can infect people's brain and affect our behavior. Now, researchers at Stockholm University have discovered how the parasite takes control of our cells.
"We have decoded how the parasite takes control of immune cells, converting them into moving "zombies" which spread the parasite in the body," said Antonio Barragan, professor at Stockholm University and one of the authors of the new study.
The infection toxoplasmosis is caused by the parasite Toxoplasma gondii and is widely spread. It's estimated that 30-50 per cent of the global human population are carriers. Cats are the parasites' main host, but the infection is also spread among other animals, including humans. A series of studies have previously shown that the parasite affects the brain of infected rats so that they lose fear of cats and even become attracted to cats' smell, making them an easy prey. This is how the parasite is spread onward, by ensuring that the rat is eaten by a cat. Toxoplasmosis is life-threatening to people with impaired immune systems and to unborn fetuses, but causes only mild symptoms in healthy individuals. However, there are studies showing that mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, depression and anxiety disorder are more common in people who are carriers of Toxoplasma gondii. There are also studies indicating that the parasite may affect aggressive or risky behavior.
Researchers at Stockholm University have now been able to show how the parasite takes control and force immune cells around the body to spread it, eventually reaching the brain. When we become infected with Toxoplasma, for example by eating insufficiently cooked meat or by contact with cat feces, the parasite ends up in the stomach. It then passes through the intestinal wall and is met by immune cells that would normally kill it. Instead, immune cells become "Trojan horses." By secreting the substance GABA, they can spread the infection into the body.
"Is it a coincidence or evolution? It resembles how nerve cells speak to each other in our brains," said Antonio Barragan.
The new research has shown that the small calcium molecule is the messenger in the communication. The researchers have found a new calcium receptor on immune cells, acting as a mailbox to receive the parasite's orders for the cell to move.
"The neat thing is that the signal can be inhibited by regular blood pressure medicine. When mice received the medicine, the spread of the parasite was inhibited. We do not want to say that blood pressure medicine can cure toxoplasmosis, but we have discovered a new signalling pathway in immune cells that is linked to their motility and that the parasite utilizes in a very smart way. This helps us understand how the parasite is spread and disease occurs. In the longer term, it may help us develop targeted treatments for infection," said Antonio Barragan.
Shark dragging video case results in three Florida arrests. Among the three men charged is Michael Wenzel, 21, of Palmetto, who was captain of the boat and a friend of Alex Kompothecras, star of the MTV reality show Siesta Key.
Wenzel faces two felony counts of aggravated animal cruelty and one misdemeanor for using an illegal method to catch a shark. The felony counts are each punishable by up to five years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine, although any punishment will likely be less than that maximum.
Robert Lee “Bo” Benac, 28, of Bradenton faces the same felony and misdemeanor charges as Wenzel. He is the son of Manatee County Commission chair Betsy Benac, while Wenzel is the son of the county planning director. The third man charged is Spencer Heintz, 23, also of Palmetto, who faces just the two felony charges.
All three turned themselves in on Tuesday. Wenzel was booked into the Pinellas County jail at 12:30 p.m. and freed at 7 p.m. after posting $4,250 bail, according to records. Benac was released from the Hillsborough County jail Tuesday at 10:30 p.m. after posting $4,250 bail.
The State Attorney’s Office is committed to holding these men accountable for having engaged in such senseless and unjustifiable animal cruelty,” said Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren in a statement.
An Arizona woman who detected a foul odor in her nearly-new car took it to a mechanic, where an exhaustive search ended with the discovery of a dead mouse and maggots.
Judi Miller said she noticed the smell getting progressively worse over the course of about a week, so she took the nearly-new car to Desert Car Care Center of Chandler, where mechanics conducted a thorough search of the vehicle.
"Ended up pulling up seats, the plastic from the pillars," mechanic Frank Leutz told KPHO/KTVK.
The mechanics ended up replacing the cabin filter, where a rodent nest was found and cleaning the car, but Miller said the smell quickly came right back.
Miller said she brought the car back to the garage when she made a disgusting discovery -- maggots in the glove compartment.
"It's like a dirty diaper that's been sitting and festering for months. It was just the most disgusting thing," Miller said of the odor.
The mechanics searched inside Miller's dashboard and discovered the cause of her discomfort: a dead mouse.
Desert Car Care said they had never seen a case like Miller's before, and the unfortunate rodent's demise should serve as a reminder to keep windows rolled up when parked.
Holiday travel: Should pets come along or stay home?Will you be traveling this holiday season? If so, will you bring your dog or cat with you? Some pets love traveling with their owners, but others should be left at home with a trusted caregiver that will take good care of your pet. You may also consider taking your pet to a highly recommended boarding facility. How can you decide the best option for your dog or cat?Experts say most cats are best left at home with a pet sitter. This allows the cat to stay in its own environment. If a pet sitter is not an option, then a boarding facility with a separate cat area is a good idea.If you have a dog, they can also be housed in a boarding facility. Boarding facilities house a large number of kennels for dogs and cats to stay in. The kennels are various sizes and some may even have outdoor access. However, if you choose to board your pet, be sure that the boarding facility is clean and your pets are up-to-date on all required vaccinations. Vaccines can help protect your pet from common viruses found in boarding facilities.You should also ask yourself: “How often are the pets fed? Does the staff seem knowledgeable and caring? Are veterinary services available? Will my pet be comfortable in the kennels provided? Will my pet get adequate exercise?” In addition, be sure to tour the facility before you decide to use their services. This will help in deciding the best boarding kennel for your pet.If a pet sitter or boarding facility isn’t your pet’s style, perhaps they would rather be with you. Taking your pet for a road trip is certainly an option; just be sure to secure your pet in a kennel and give your pet a bathroom break every two hours.If your pet will be traveling on an airplane, bus, or train, please make sure to call ahead to make arrangements for their travel. You may need to pay additional costs to travel with your pet and provide up-to-date shot records.As a guest at another person’s house, be sure to let your host know that you’re bringing a furry friend. Keep in mind that your pet will be in a different environment with new people, smells, and potentially other pets, so keep a watchful eye on them. If other pets are in the house, consider providing a safe space for your pet where they can be alone.Be sure to make arrangements for your pets if you plan on traveling. Knowing your pets are happy and safe during the holidays is the best gift of all.------------------------
Why pets don’t make good gifts
Every year thousands of unwanted pets are returned, given away, or abandoned to their fates. Some of these pets were gifts for birthdays, Christmas, or other occasions.The giver is usually well-meaning. It could be that they believe a single friend or relative could “use some company,” or that giving a new pet will help to ease the grief of someone mourning the loss of a beloved pet or a loved one. They also may feel that this person seems to “love animals” and will appreciate a pet as a gift. And then there are the parents who “finally” give in to repeated requests from the kids to get a pet.It’s just not a good idea. Someone’s lifestyle may not be conducive to taking on the responsibility of caring for a pet. Many people who love animals may not actually want to have one, preferring to visit with their friends’ or family’s pets instead. Caring for a pet is a big responsibility – and that includes a financial responsibilityParents can tell you how often the kids say, “But I’ll take care of him… pleeeease. I’ll feed him, and walk him, and brush him…every day.” But, of course, the adults end up doing the majority of the pet care. Wait until your kids are old enough to assume many of the responsibilities of owning a pet.The temptation to give a cute pet as a gift can be particularly strong around Christmas. Resist the temptation; the holidays are often filled with noise, crowds, and plenty of activity. This is a stressful introduction for both the pet and for the people. Wait until after things have settled down, you have done your homework, can make that commitment and have the time to spend with your new pet. People surrender their pets for a number of reasons. In the case of “surprise pets”, it is most often because someone in the family didn’t get along with the pet or never wanted one to begin with — or the novelty of having a pet simply wore off.Adopting a pet is a lifelong commitment. When bringing a new pet into your family, everyone in the family should have a chance to meet and spend time with the pet before making the decision to adopt. Remember, pets are family, too.---------------------------
New Illinois divorce law would give pet custody to better owner...A new Illinois divorce law will let a judge decide who is the best owner for the family pet.Previously, companion animals were treated like furniture in a divorce. They were divvied up between the splitting couple as part of the value of the estate. But on Jan. 1, a judge will now be able to consider who walks the dog more or who cleans out the fish tank and award the pet accordingly.The law, sponsored by state Sen. Linda Holmes, D-Aurora, is meant to treat pets less like property and more like family.“It has feelings and emotions,” Holmes said. “They’re looking at what would be in the best interest of the animal.”Holmes, who served as Brookfield Zoo docent and volunteers with the Naperville Humane Society, said both sides would make their its as to why they would be the best to keep the pet. The judge would, in theory, be able to grant joint custody of the pup.The law would not apply to service animals.Divorce attorney and animal rights advocate Erika Wyatt, partner at Schiller DuCanto & Fleck, said it will now matter who does the dirty work of caring for a pet.“Who does the day-to-day stuff? Who buys the pet food? Who stays on top of vaccinations?” she said. “Anything that happens in the normal care for the pet is going to become relevant now.”Animal custody was becoming more common in a courtroom battle up until the last couple years. A study by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers showed that a third of their lawyers said couples divorced in the last three years were more likely to settle pet custody disputes outside of the courtroom. Dogs, they said, remain the top animal causing these disputes with 96 percent of the respondents. Cats and horses come in a distant second with 1 percent each.Alaska was the first to change its divorce laws to give pets a higher status in divorce proceedings.----------------------
A bird, a plane, a polar bear? Wild guests at Alaska airportScott Babcock was wrapping up an early morning runway inspection at America’s farthest north airport when he saw what he thought were a couple of wolves.He took a closer look through his headlights and saw something bigger and badder.Two young polar bears ran away when they saw the Alaska airport worker’s truck approach. He made sure to videotape their departure.Most airports only worry about wildlife when dealing with bird strikes, but state officials at the airport in the city of Utqiagvik, formerly Barrow, have to prepare for marine mammals that wander in from the Chukchi Sea and around a fence.A bearded seal estimated to weigh 450 pounds plunked itself down on a runway in October after a storm. The state Department of Transportation warned pilots of “low sealings.”But polar bears are another story. They come with claws, teeth and sometimes lethal attitudes. And at this time of year, when the sun is down all day for the next few months, polar bears can be hard to see.“Those bears could be 40 yards away from you and you wouldn’t know it,” said Babcock, an equipment operator foreman.If someone walked out of building and was trapped between a polar bear and a fence, “things could get real ugly real fast,” he said.Complicating Babcock’s job is that polar bears are protected marine mammals. Airport workers are not authorized to chase or harass them. If bears linger, they call in the wildlife management department of the North Slope Borough, Alaska’s version of counties.